Blog To School

Last Tuesday, our boys returned to school – Ollie into Year 5 (which, for anyone unfamiliar with the English education system, is the penultimate year before leaving for Secondary School), and Isaac into Year 1 (which, for anyone unfamiliar with the English education system, is the point at which you no longer give a shit).

69488982_2466075293626311_7848138790169214976_n

Look, when your kids start primary school in the ‘reception’ class, even the battle-hardened among us, who have been there before with elder siblings, have a few concerns (even if, unlike the first time around, we care considerably less); but by Year 1, most parents have lost interest altogether. So long as your child doesn’t set fire to anything, attack anyone, or use one of ‘Daddy’s Angry Words’ when addressing a teacher, there’s very little else which can go wrong.

Then again, most parents don’t have an Isaac.

As you may have gathered over the last few years of my blog, Isaac is not like ‘normal’ children. Admittedly, I would argue there is no such thing as a ‘normal’ child, and any so-called expert who says otherwise is a moron, but even allowing for some variation between kids, Isaac is uniquely odd. It’s one of the reasons we love him so.

As an example, Ollie recently tried to trick Isaac with the old ‘What do cows drink?’ conundrum (where the recipient is supposed to be fooled into answering ‘milk’ rather than ‘water’), but Isaac – having paused only briefly – shouted ‘Sausages!’

See what I mean?

Cow_female_black_white.jpg

Anyway, while we therefore had a few concerns about Isaac returning to school last week, the good news (for me) was that my wife will be doing the morning drop off on Mondays and Tuesdays this year, so the responsibility of escorting our youngest – and most untamed – child to his new teacher, was entirely hers.

As a side point, every single one of the teachers I have met at our boys’ school is delightful (which is, in itself, rather worrying, as I don’t think I could handle thirty little children every day without drinking heavily and calling at least one or two a ‘fucking dickhead’ every once in a while), and I always feel bad when a new teacher suddenly finds themselves responsible for either Ollie’s nerdiness, or Isaac’s brutal savagery.

I have genuinely contemplated leaving notes in the boys’ bags at the start of each academic year, along the lines of ‘Look, we’ve tried to be good parents, but somewhere along the line we clearly screwed up, and this is what we’re left with – sorry’ but my wife won’t let me. Besides, despite his demonic tendencies at home, Isaac appears to be the model pupil at school, so they never believe us when we say we have previously considered performing an exorcism.

Image result for exorcism gif

Anyway, as my wife was responsible for the first school run on Tuesday, I gleefully trotted off to work nice and early, and made a mental note to check my phone shortly after 9am, just to make sure the rest of the family had survived the ordeal. Sure enough, when I checked at 9:05am, my wife had messaged to say both boys were safely within their respective classrooms – although it was Ollie who had surprisingly created the bigger issue, by insisting on taking in a large stack of ‘contracts’ he had drawn up for the football team he has created for his year group.

As I mentioned in last week’s blog, it is perfectly clear to all but Ollie that no one gives a shit about his stupid football team, but rather obliviously he has still recruited most of his year to take part – even allocating some of the non-footballers among his peers  either coaching or physio roles, and rather chauvinistically setting up a ‘ladies’ team for the girls (even though I could name quite a few who are better footballers than him).

Oh, and if this wasn’t nerdy enough, he also took his Rubik’s cube into school, too. Honestly, when I was at school, I was studious, skinny, wore big glasses, and seemed to have based my hair style on that of my mother, and even I would have picked on Ollie.

Still, he’ll realise in later life that geeks have better job prospects and attract nicer partners, so I’m sure it’ll work out for him in the long run.

Even better than the first drop-off going well, Isaac apparently came skipping out of class at the end of the day, saying he had enjoyed a ‘super, super time!’ (which was uncharacteristically camp for Isaac), and describing his new teacher, who we shall call ‘Miss X’, as a mixture between Miss Lovely from Horrid Henry, and Miss Honey from Matilda. Even if you are not familiar with either character, you can gauge their personality from the names they have been given. In short, Isaac seemed besotted with his new teacher.

(NB: Just to be clear, I am only referring to his new teacher as ‘Miss X’, because it would be inappropriate to use her real name. Her surname does not begin with X, and to my knowledge she is neither a Bond-villain, nor a dominatrix).

Anyway, much as I was relieved that the boys had enjoyed a good first day, I was still acutely aware that it was my turn to do the school run the following morning, and any success from the day before could easily be undone after a few minutes of Daddy being in charge.

As a result, I made a point of getting the boys ready for school extra early (pretending we had to leave the house in ‘FIVE MINUTES!’, when actually we had a comfortable fifteen before needing to depart), and we found ourselves in the ‘junior’ playground in good time – even accounting for the fact Isaac insisted on riding his new bike all the way, and the fact that Ollie was trying to prove he is grown-up enough to walk to school by himself, while simultaneously trying to cross the road in front of a car.

So far, so good.

Then, things took a bit of an awkward turn.

Having safely dropped Ollie off in the junior playground (and, when I say ‘dropped off’, I mean ‘shouted at to explain that I was leaving, and he should under no circumstances see that as a green light to start behaving like a twat’), Isaac and I headed around the school building to the infant playground, and stood outside his new classroom.

It was at this point that I started to ask Isaac about his new teacher, as she is not someone my wife and I have had previous dealings with (she has never taught Ollie), and with a name like ‘Miss X’, I was intrigued to meet her (no, wait, that’s not her real name).

More importantly, I needed to speak to her about the reading book Isaac had been given to start the year, as he was finding it quite tough. Ok, he’s not an enthusiastic reader at the best of times, but you find me one five-year-old who can happily flick their way through Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment (joke – it was actually The Canterbury Tales).

As we stood outside his classroom, next to a couple of mums who were chatting away to our right, I asked Isaac whether he wanted me to speak to Miss X about his book, or whether he would rather do it. Being naturally quite timid at school (in direct contrast to the Tasmanian Devil of hatred and violence he is at home), he asked if I would speak to her.

It was at this point I noticed the time was already 8:55am, which is when the children are usually taken into class, and since there was no sign of Miss X, I looked at Isaac and quipped, “well, if your teacher ever turns up, I’ll happily speak to her.” I may have also tutted while looking at my watch.

To my horror, one of the two ‘mums’ to our right then approached me and introduced herself. “Hello, I’m Miss X, can I help at all?”

Image result for horrified gif

Damn it.

Yes, I had been so preoccupied with ensuring our two boys made a good impression at the start of their new academic year, I had completely ignored the fact it was far more likely to be me who made a mess of things.

Fortunately, I think Miss X only overheard part of what I was saying about Isaac’s book, because if she did catch my harsh comment about her tardiness so early into the school year (which was particularly uncalled for, bearing in mind she was already outside her classroom well before I had arrived), then she did not let on. And, if she chose to ignore my rudeness and not react, then she is even lovelier than Isaac described.

After we had resolved the issue with the book, and she had moved towards the classroom door to start ushering children in, I quickly asked Isaac why he hadn’t warned me that was his teacher stood next to us.

“I thought you knew.”

“How would I know? I’ve never met her before!”

“Oh, yeah. Oops.”

I swear he did it deliberately….

 

Thanks for reading x

Standard

Spaghetti Blognese

My wife and I don’t always agree on everything – but one thing we do agree on, is that Italy is at the very top of our ‘countries we would both like to visit, that neither of us have ever been to’ list.

Say what you like about the Italians (unless you happen to be Prince Phillip, in which case you had better stay quiet), but there aren’t many things they do badly – except, perhaps, pop music, and choosing sides during a world war. They look good, they sound great, and most things they turn their perfectly bronzed hands to they excel at: food, art, cars, football, architecture, the making of the love*, riding a moped without a helmet…. as a nation they are just so damn sexy.

*this is an educated guess, as I have never slept with an Italian.

download (2)

In fact, Ollie’s current topic at school is ‘Italy’ (which is actually the reason behind this week’s entry, but we’ll get to that in a bit), so I just asked him to name something the Italians are rubbish at, and the best he could come up with was ‘knowing when to run away from a volcano.’ I think that speaks volumes, really, don’t you? According to my nine-year-old, the last time the Italians were truly shit at something was a little under two thousand years ago (although, in fairness, we didn’t let him stay up for Eurovision this year). In contrast, I don’t think we Brits could last two thousand minutes without badly fucking up something. And we don’t have volcanoes to contend with.

Anyway, I don’t wish to appear uncultured, as I do appreciate Italian art and architecture to an extent (well, at least as far as my 1996 A-grade in GCSE Art will allow), but my two main reasons for desperately wanting to visit Italy are firstly to watch a Serie A football match (just don’t tell Ollie, as he’s been pestering me to take him to Juventus ever since we got back from Barcelona a couple of years ago) and, secondly, to eat their food. All their food.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Chinese and Thai food as much as the next man (assuming the next man really loves Chinese and Thai food), and given the choice of a meal out I would always opt for a curry; but Italian is the one cuisine where I could happily order most of the menu and not be disappointed. Apart from tiramisu. Tiramisu is shit.

download

Shit

Such is my admiration for Italy (and I say this without ever having visited, so I suppose the reality may disappoint, but I doubt it), around a decade ago I took a course of Italian evening classes to try to learn a bit of their language. I’m not sure what I hoped to achieve from this, as languages have never been my strong point, but the classes took place at my wife’s school (so they were not only convenient, but I got them for half price), and I suspect deep down I was just desperate to make myself a little sexier. And, yes, I know what you’re all thinking, ladies, ‘how on earth do you improve on that?’, but even Adonis-like specimens such as myself can strive to better themselves. Anyway, I promptly forgot everything I had learned within around a month of the course finishing, so the whole exercise was entirely fucking pointless.

Honestly, I can’t even remember how to count to ten in Italian now, and it frankly scares me how little I retained (particularly when this was pre-fatherhood, so there was no excuse for my brain turning to mush). Then again, over the course of twelve weeks, at no point did we ever cover ‘food and drink’, or ‘saying something sexy to make women go weak at the knees’, so arguably it was a waste of time anyway. Why would I ever visit Italy for a week or two, and need to ask someone when their birthday is, or the best way to the library? I can’t even count to ten in Italian, so what the fuck could I hope to achieve in one of their libraries?

Anyway, as I mentioned earlier, Ollie’s topic at school this term has been Italy (following on from Ancient Rome and Pompeii last term) and, to conclude their time in Year 4, on Wednesday the class created their own Italian cafe, so they could cook for their parents as a treat. How delightful (said with only a hint of sarcasm).

Having been split into small groups a couple of weeks ago, the children then set about creating their own menu (from an admittedly limited range of options suggested to them by the teachers), and Ollie’s group decided to serve margherita pizza, followed by panna cotta with strawberries. Ok, perhaps not my first choices from an Italian menu, but still perfectly acceptable, and I suspect the children were restricted by what the teachers knew how to cook in the first place. Besides, when the alternative dessert option was tiramisu (which, as we all know, is Italian for ‘creamy work of the devil himself’), Ollie could have done a hell of a lot worse – pun intended.

Then, to save the expense/hassle of each child having to bring a vast array of ingredients into school, each group divided the shopping list between them to lessen the burden, and Ollie was given the task of sourcing the following:

‘00’ flour

Mozzarella

Cornflour

Whole milk

Ok, the list could have been easier, because we only had one of those ingredients in the house at the time (cornflour, for anyone who is curious), but when I spotted that one girl’s parents had been lumbered with ‘gelatine leaves, vanilla pods and yeast’, I decided not to complain too loudly. At least two of our ingredients didn’t necessitate a trip to sodding Waitrose.

Now, had the meal itself been a disaster, I would have felt sorry for Ollie and his classmates, as I know how much effort they put into designing and running ‘Café Italiano’, but equally it might have made for a funnier and more entertaining blog entry. As it happens, however, the event was a complete triumph.

When we arrived, the classroom had been emptied, with all the desks moved outside next to the playing field so we could dine ‘al fresco’. Each table of four then had place settings, and generally speaking there were two children plus an adult each per table, but Ollie and I were sat with a couple of boys whose parents couldn’t be there. Oh well, at least that meant I didn’t have to make polite conversation with a parent I didn’t know/like.

Once seated, the teacher came round with water for everyone (I did think about jokingly asking to see the wine list, but then stopped myself when I realised she was probably quite stressed, and therefore not in any sort of mood to be dealing with dickhead jokers like me).

While the drinks were being served, and some late comers were still being seated, one man spotted his daughter returning from the kitchen/classroom, and went to greet her – at which point she immediately burst into tears right next to our table. It transpired that she wasn’t expecting either of her parents to be able to attend, and was so overcome with emotion when she saw her father, she started crying with happiness.

Typically, at the same time, my hayfever must have flared up, because my eyes started watering too (shut up). It was like one of those videos you see on Facebook, where the little child doesn’t expect Daddy to make it home for Christmas, because Daddy is in the army and stationed somewhere like Iraq or Afghanistan, but then the Santa Claus in the grotto pulls his beard down and there’s Daddy and everyone cries and…. Fuck it, I’ve gone again.

Image result for man holding back tears gif

Anyway, soon after, Ollie returned from the kitchen with our first course of margherita pizza, and I have to say it looked and tasted far better than I was expecting:

While tucking in, one of the ‘Café orphans’ nearby sat down with his starter of ‘freshly baked ciabatta with olive oil’, and, having taken one bite, commented on how strong the olive oil was. Upon hearing this, a child at the table behind him, who was enjoying the same starter, piped up with ‘well, it is extra virgin, after all’, and I damn-near spit my water everywhere laughing.

Once the first courses were finished, the children disappeared back to the kitchen to fetch either their mains or desserts, depending on what second course they were offering, and Ollie presented me with a particularly lovely panna cotta, complete with strawberry compote:

67095157_10157437079201350_8683722289604198400_n

Again, this looked and tasted better than I had anticipated, and when Ollie didn’t particularly enjoy his, I even finished it for him (using the argument that I didn’t want him to get into trouble for not eating his lunch, when actually I was just being greedy).

As it happens, because my expectations of ‘Café Italiano’ had been low, I had already eaten a quick lunch before leaving the office, and secretly confided this in Ollie – while phrasing it in such a way as to not hurt his feelings. I needn’t have worried, however, as he then told me he had scoffed a roast gammon dinner in the school canteen about half an hour before I arrived, so clearly neither of us had much confidence in the café’s success.

More fool us, because the whole event went very well, and I even jokingly asked the teacher where the tip jar was situated because I was so impressed. Of course, I then immediately regretted making another joke, when she loudly announced to all the parents that they would indeed be accepting tips, and people started glaring at me.

My attempts to quickly distract everyone with some exotic sounding Italian didn’t work, either, as it transpired one of the parents spoke the language far better than me, and immediately started directing me towards the fucking library.

Thanks for reading x

Standard

Usain Blog

Usain1

The week before last, it was the boys’ sports day at school.

As Isaac is in reception, this was his first ever official sports day (although he did briefly feature in the pre-school version last summer), and in typical Isaac fashion he didn’t want to take part.

Now, when children don’t want to do something, their reactions usually range from eventually accepting the inevitable (‘if you don’t do it, you’ll get into trouble’), to the ever-popular strategy of bawling their fucking eyes out, like that has ever made the slightest bit of difference in the history of parenting.

Isaac, on the other hand, chose to take his protest to the next level – nudity, and he was still stark-bollock naked, screaming on the floor, two minutes before we were due to leave the house.

However, despite the obvious stress and upset this caused, as leaving for the school run always seems to be a rushed affair (I once asked the boys to start getting ready at 6.30am, just to prove my point, and we still ended up forcing shoes on and yanking Isaac’s hair into something remotely resembling a ponytail as we flew out of the door at 8.40am), I was secretly quite pleased with his tantrum.

The reason for this, was that for the first time since Ollie started school in 2014, I was unable to attend sports day myself (due to the fact my already sparse annual leave is rapidly running out), so my mum had driven over to watch Isaac in that morning’s ‘infant sports day’, while my wife was free in the afternoon to watch Ollie in the junior event.

Now, you might think that Isaac throwing a fucking wobbly would be best kept to ourselves, and that I might be embarrassed for my mum to see such behaviour from her youngest grandson; but he always behaves impeccably for her, and I don’t think until that point she had ever truly believed us when we told her (frequently), what a little shitbag he can be – so it was nice for her to see the real Isaac in all his hairy, naked, screaming glory.*

(*when I say ‘hairy’, I do of course mean his long hair, rather than any bodily fur – he’s not that feral).

Had it been solely down to me, I may very well have dragged a completely naked Isaac to school by his ponytail, just to teach him a lesson. Fortunately, however, my mum was more level-headed, and did a far better job of reasoning with him (apparently, in these situations, my tactic of growling ‘put your pants on now, or I will fuck you right up’ is somewhat counter-productive), and we somehow left the house with him not only fully-clothed, but wearing the green t-shirt (his ‘team’ colours) which had kicked off the spat in the first place.

Ok, he wasn’t wearing a hat like the school had requested (it was originally forecast to be gloriously sunny weather), but we had video evidence on my phone of what a little shit he had been right up until the point we left the house, and I was more than happy to show it to his teachers, should any of them dare to question his lack of headwear.

In the end, we arrived at school on time, sent Ollie off to his classroom wearing a red t-shirt in preparation for the afternoon’s events (yes, the boys are in different teams, which has caused many arguments about which is better), and escorted Isaac around to the infant playground before he could change his mind. Here, I left my mum in one of the seats near the start line on the school field, while I gladly handed Isaac over to his teachers (whispering ‘good luck dealing with this today’), before making my escape.

Obviously, I only have my mum’s account of what happened next, as I had to dash to work, but the child who hated the thought of participating in sports day (and who was apparently still sulking as he lined up for his first event), somehow secured two golds and two silvers from the four races he was in. Better still, he scored the most points in reception, and got a high-five from the headmistress for his efforts. You honestly couldn’t make this shit up. Although, the fact that one of those golds was in the dressing-up race, comes as no surprise whatsoever….

 

The thing is, a British school ‘sports day’ is a rather unique experience, particularly when it comes to the definition of what constitutes ‘sport’. It is very rare to encounter a four-year-old child taking part in a recognised Olympic event at their school sports day (although, in fairness, arming the little fuckers with javelins probably wouldn’t be the best idea), and the closest Isaac came to what I would consider a ‘proper’ race, was the 50m dash. Which he came second in.

Instead, sports day usually comprises novelty races, using random items like sacks, beanbags, and the ever-popular egg-and-spoon combo; and these events seldom go according to plan.

The Sack Race

The Idea:  Children run to their sack, which is placed a short distance from the start line, climb into it, then hop/bounce the remainder of the distance to the finish line.

The Reality:  The children somehow change lanes before they even reach their respective sacks, resulting in at least one child so confused and sackless, that they retire from the event in tears. Of the remaining kids, who do at least make it into a sack, more than half will end up flat on their face at some point, meaning they finish the race sobbing too.

51vaADULe8L

(photo clearly staged, as none of them are crying/bleeding)

The Beanbag Race

The Idea:  Children place a beanbag onto their head, then walk/jog steadily to the finish line, without it falling off.

The Reality:  The beanbag falls off so frequently (on average, every four steps), all the children cheat by holding it firmly in place for the majority of the race.

hqdefault

Cheating

The Egg and Spoon Race

The Idea:  To walk the course with an egg (or, more commonly, a ping-pong ball for safety reasons) balanced precariously on a spoon.

The Reality:  Some devious little fucker keeps their thumb over the egg to hold it in place, and manages to sprint the entire distance without it ever looking even remotely close to falling off the spoon. No teachers find this in the slightest bit suspicious, despite the fact said child wins the race by at least thirty seconds.

Egg_&_spoon_finish_line

***

Other popular events include the ‘Dressing-Up Race’, which will usually (and, somewhat inexplicably) require children to adorn themselves in a high-visibility jacket, hard hat and wellington boots by the finish line, with each item of clothing spaced equidistantly throughout the course. Alternative clothing items have been known to include: flowery hats, dresses and long gloves. Sometimes, teachers will throw in the collection of a handbag as the final item, to complete the bizarre ‘elderly-woman-from-the-1950s’ ensemble.

I suppose the rationale behind the unusual choice of outfit, is that it is entertaining for the parents, but it would be more practical to have the children start the race in their pyjamas, before gradually adding items of school uniform by the end of the race. At least this way, it would be good practice for the school run.

Finally, we have the parent races. Here, as if being forced to participate in the dads’ event wasn’t bad enough, you will almost certainly encounter the very worst of fatherhood – the ‘Dickhead Dad’. Sometimes, this turns out to be a father you have chatted with in the playground, and who until that point struck you as a decent bloke; but there is a genetic flaw in a small proportion of the male population, which means they turn into a complete wanker as soon as they are placed into a competitive environment with other dads.

The first type of Dickhead Dad, is the guy who pretends to be reluctant to take part in the race, only to eventually ‘give in’, before stripping down to expensive running gear and a pair of spikes. He then wins the race comfortably, before claiming he ‘hasn’t run in years’.

The second – and even worse – type of Dickhead Dad, is the moron who clearly has no intention of winning, or even trying to win, and only takes part in the race because he thinks it is funny to trip up, or push over, as many other men as possible. There is a special place in hell reserved for people like this – and, in hindsight, it is perhaps a good thing primary schools don’t tend to feature a javelin event, otherwise people like me might find themselves imprisoned for impaling someone up the arse with one.

Thanks for reading x

Standard

Billy Blog Hat

One of my strongest memories of primary school (well, other than hating it for the first term, and being forced to wear the shittest uniform in the history of primary school education – it was predominantly brown and yellow with, rather inexplicably, a huge eagle on the front of the jumper), was learning to read via the ‘Roger Red Hat’ series of books.

22886279_10156061324841844_8162617922074569596_n

Bizarrely, most of what I learned at high school and university has since evaporated from my brain (presumably because it was of little practical use), and nowadays I struggle to remember events from the week before, but I can still clearly recall that the books featured Roger Red Hat, Billy Blue Hat, and Jonny and Jennifer Yellow Hat (who I think were twins), and they all lived in the ‘village with three corners’.

In fact, having just checked online, it turns out the series was known as ‘One, Two, Three and Away’ (which rings no bells, whatsoever), and other than the fact Jonny is actually spelt ‘Johnny’, I was pretty much spot on – even down to the fact he and Jennifer were twins. Just look at the state of them:

Initial reactions:

  • Roger is an overly-dramatic, beret-wearing tosser;
  • Billy needs to stop the hillside manspreading;
  • Johnny should rethink his wardrobe, as the ‘off-the-shoulder dungarees’ look is just sooooo Deliverance

Image result for deliverance gif

I have to say, I don’t remember Percy Green, who is mentioned as a fifth character in the series, but what has really surprised me, looking through the list of books apparently released over four decades, was the number of truly disturbing titles available:

  1. Jennifer Yellow-Hat and Mr Brown’s Goat – let’s just pray ‘goat’ isn’t a euphemism;
  2. No, Percy Green! – I might have to track down a copy of this, to see what the hell Percy did;
  3. The Big Man and the Little Mouse hey, it’s not the size of your mouse which matters.
  4. Stop it, Percy Green! – Christ, what’s Percy done now?
  5. Stop, Cried Alex this is genuinely the next book in the series, so I can only assume Percy Green did something unspeakable to poor Alex;
  6. The Donkey went to School Well, it was the 1980’s, and the Village with Three Corners does look pretty ‘rural’, so this should come as no surprise;
  7. Jennifer Yellow-Hat Went Out in the Sunshine followed by Jennifer Went Out in the Dark and then Jennifer Yellow-Hat Went to Town – like all great trilogies, I’ll wager the second installment of ‘Jennifer Went Out’ was the shittest;
  8. Roger, the Stick and the Old Man – I dread to think what went on here *glances down the list, to check for future releases titled ‘Roger Receives Life for Murder’*;
  9. Percy Green and Mr Red Hat’s Car – a tale of juvenile theft/joyriding, or a sinister child-abduction? Perhaps we’ll never know, as the next release was ‘Crash! The Car Hit a Tree’, quickly followed by ‘A Funeral in the Village with Three Corners’ (ok, I made the second one up);
  10. The Old Man and the Wind – standard. Happens to the best of us;
  11. Jennifer in Dark Woods – she’s out again. I hate it when they ruin a perfectly good trilogy with a dubious spin-off. I’m starting to think there was something sinister about Jennifer;
  12. Sita Climbs the Wall – I wonder if Sita was Mexican, and this was a terrifying premonition of Donald Trump’s presidency;
  13. When the School Door Was Shut – they were really dragging the barrel in the later series, weren’t they?
  14. The Big Man, the Witch and the Donkey – a bit ‘specialist’, but each to their own;
  15. The Little Old Man and the Magic Stick – put it away, little old man.
  16. Dancing Ann and the Green-Gruff Grackle – erm…. what?
  17. The King of the Magic Mountains – I suspect the author was on heavy medication by this point;
  18. The Horse that Flew in the Moonlight – yep, she was.

fede88e7e5171c1e4054c2d8750048c0--yellow-hats-red-hats

Anyway, before those of you who didn’t grow up with these books get all judgmental, they formed an important part of my childhood, and helped me learn to read. In hindsight, some of those titles (none of which I remember), may also explain why my own writing can be so obscure, but that’s not for me to say.

Sadly, not only did the series apparently finish at some point in the 1990s (which I initially assumed to be when the author passed away, but it turns out she died in 2014, at the ripe old age of 93), they are no longer available for today’s youth, so I have been denied the opportunity of re-reading them with Ollie and Isaac, as a fond reminder of my own childhood.

Instead, my boys – like many other children around the country – have been subjected to a new gang of delinquents, known as ‘Biff, Chip, and Kipper’ (cue parents developing a Vietnam-style nervous twitch, at the very mention of those names).

Whatever you may think about the ‘One, Two, Three and Away‘ books, at least those children had normal names, and, to this day – despite having read most of the series – I’m still not sure which of Biff, Chip and Kipper is the girl. Not that it matters, necessarily, because the parents should be investigated for giving their children such ridiculous names anyway (I was just relieved to discover ‘Floppy’ is the dog, because no boy needs to go through adolescence with that for a name).

As I was reading one of these books with Isaac last week, slowly losing the will to live as he struggled over the same word he had already read seventeen times, it struck me that this series is no better than the ones we had as kids.

In the end, the more Isaac read, the more concerned I became about the story; so I ended up photographing each page, in order to illustrate the various issues I have with this particular title, which is simply named ‘Spots’….

20190523_075129

  • Why has Kipper surrounded himself with the angriest looking toys I’ve ever seen?
  • What has he done to that bear to make him so mad?
  •  Why is Dad’s ear purple?
  • Why are his sideburns a different colour to the rest of his hair?

20190523_075202

  • Why do Biff and Chip have matching 1970’s jumpsuits on?
  • What kind of shopping list comprises apples, bread, dog food and a doorbell? I can only assume they shop in Aldi;
  • Who buys a ‘terraced houses’ calendar?
  • How does Dad not spend the remainder of the book in hospital, being treated for third-degree burns?

20190523_075235

  • I would be dubious of any doctor who turned up with hypodermic needles sticking out of her fucking handbag;
  • Is that a picture of George Michael on the girl’s wall?
  • What’s the fox grinning at?
  • What have the bear and the cat been up to?

20190523_075320

  • That is one truly awful dressing gown. She looks like a stick of rock. Or a deckchair.

20190523_075341

  • Look how smug Dad is, serving a breakfast of what appears to be hotdog, lentils, and a bottle of lucozade – together with a giant bowl of what I sincerely hope are grapes and not green olives;
  • Does the newspaper say ‘Dagenham Post’? If so, I assume the headline ‘New Disaster Horror’ is all about living in Dagenham;
  • Those sideburns really make me uneasy.

20190523_075409

  • Is the man holding the dog up so it can see over the fence, or has it jumped?
  • What has the man done wrong, for his wife to glare at him like that? (Experience tells us, when he asks her later, the answer will almost certainly be ‘you know‘);
  • Is it because he appears to be staring at Mum’s knickers on the line (assuming they aren’t Dad’s)?
  • Only a moron would hang the bed sheet like that, dragging it across the lawn where Floppy has presumably left lots of ‘treats’ lying around – and I don’t mean that bone.

20190523_075431

  • On behalf of men everywhere, I resent the suggestion we never go to the supermarket, and that, on the rare occasions we do, we try to pay for our weekly shop at the ‘basket’ checkout with a fucking cheque book;
  • In Dad’s defence, what’s the point in sticking the ‘8 items or less, Cash only’ sign half way down the aisle?
  • Is it just me who finds that hammer a bit sinister (and I was right, they do shop in Aldi)?
  • Has he dropped the frozen turkey on yet more grapes? Mum will be shitting through the eye of a needle at this rate;
  • The bloke behind Dad needs to sort his waistline out, particularly if he’s going to insist on wearing double-brown;

20190523_075514

  • How old is that TV?
  • Why is it switched off? Is it because Dad is too lazy to get up and turn it on, or was he watching something mucky before they walked in?
  • Who did Mum’s make-up, Stevie fucking Wonder?

20190523_075540

  • Dad seems pretty pleased about contracting whatever illness the rest of the family had;
  • Someone needs to tell Mum to look in a mirror and sort her face out;
  • This family is terrible at catering for the sick. You want soup when you feel unwell, not chicken, potatoes, and a bottle of wine;
  • Why is Dad’s ear no longer purple? It obviously wasn’t a birthmark at the start of the book, so what happened? Had he slept in some Ribena?

And the book ends there, so clearly no one gives a shit what happens to poor Dad after he gets poorly, and I also resent the fact the moral of the story appears to be ‘men don’t understand how difficult women have it.’

Sexist pigs.

Thanks for reading x

Standard

Rita, Sue and Blog Too

I suspect most of my readers know this by now, but I have two sons: Ollie, who will be nine in May, and Isaac, who turns five a few days earlier. They are both my sons (until genetic testing proves otherwise), but they could not be more different if they tried.

Oh, they certainly have similarities, and most of the traits they do share undoubtedly come from my DNA rather than my wife’s (such as being accident prone, short-tempered, and dashingly good looking, to name but two), but at the same time they could easily be mistaken as coming from different families.

For example, Ollie is very academic, generally quiet and reserved, and his two main passions are reading and football. Isaac, on the other hand, isn’t very fond of reading, hates football, has long hair like a mane, and can be extremely, erm…. challenging at times.

45057757_10156781155406350_1762825208739135488_n

Ollie is also a very sensitive and emotional child, who gets upset rather too easily (which, again, is typical of my contributed DNA rather than his mother’s), while Isaac only tends to cry when he is denied chocolate (and, if you have been paying attention, you will know that we as a family gave up chocolate for the month of February, to raise funds for the British Heart Foundation, so he has spent the last twenty-eight days in as foul a mood as you can possibly imagine).

So, on the whole, our boys are very different, but in the last few weeks they have both reached an important life-milestone (at roughly the same time, if not the same age): they have apparently both got girlfriends at school. Needless to say, my wife and I found this very sweet (then teased them both mercilessly) but they have approached the news in very different ways.

Ollie has vehemently denied that he has a girlfriend, to the point he eventually got very upset and – typically – cried when Isaac made fun of him, but we suspect he is at least keen on one of the girls in his class, because he blushed uncontrollably when we discovered her name. I have since tried to work out which one she is in the playground (so I can warn her that she can do better – joke), but he’s not giving a great deal away, and just tells me to shut up.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d be horrified if he actually started dating at the age of eight, because not only is that far too young to be in any kind of relationship, but I didn’t get a proper girlfriend until I was eighteen (and she’s now my wife), so the injustice of my son playing the field at half that age is frankly rather depressing.

I am, however, pleased that his opinion of the opposite sex seems to be maturing, because until recently he still considered girls to be in the same league as green vegetables – utterly disgusting. I think it would be quite sweet if, the next time there was a school disco, he got dressed up to impress the ‘other’ half of his class (because there is still a very obvious divide in the playground between the girls and the boys), rather than simply going as Darth Vader, as he has previously. And, in case of any confusion, this is not a metaphor for him being all dark and brooding, as he actually went dressed head-to-toe as Darth Vader. In his words “well, it said ‘dress to impress’, so I did”.

12391897_10153858244636350_8483459130673548938_n

It’s nice that he is maturing, and I am particularly pleased that he is growing up to be a well-rounded young man – but at the same time there’s no need for him to hurry, and merely accepting/appreciating girls is more than enough progression for now.

Then, we have Isaac.

Isaac is the one I am worried about, because he has already shown an interest in a number of girls in his reception class since he started in September, and I suspect this isn’t solely related to sharing tips on hair styles.

40452051_10156634749286350_5639450629840568320_n.jpg

One of his best friends, a girl from nursery, started school with him, and they have always been inseparable, so when he whispered to my wife recently that he has a girlfriend, we immediately expected it to be her, but it turns out his affections now lie elsewhere.

Again, it wouldn’t be fair of me to mention the girl by name, because I have a number of local followers, and so there is a (slim) chance one or both of her parents could read this, but suffice to say it isn’t a name we had heard him mention until earlier this week, so I have again been on the lookout in the playground to try and spot her.

As with Ollie, my wife and I suspect that this girl has no clue Isaac is keen on her, so when he claims to have a girlfriend, the relationship may be entirely one-sided, but they apparently shared a lovely moment playing with Play-Doh on Monday (as in the children’s modelling clay, rather than an unusually-named classmate), and he has been smitten ever since. Part of me is tempted to tell Ollie, so he can get his revenge for the teasing Isaac gave him a couple of weeks ago, but that would be just as cruel of me; and, besides, I happen to think it’s rather cute.

It has got me thinking about what they will be like when they are older and actually dating, however, and while I suspect Ollie will be very much like me (nervous and uncomfortable around girls until he is much more mature, when he will no doubt settle down at a relatively young age), Isaac is the one I am concerned about.

Isaac, despite only being four, is the one I already worry will be sneaking through a girl’s bedroom window in the dead of night, before being escorted back to our house by a disgruntled father. Isaac will be the one with a number of girls on the go at once (by all accounts, he already has), as ladies swoon over his flowing locks – assuming he keeps them when he is older. Ladies, I am told, like a wild man they think they can tame, and a bad boy who will treat them mean (at first). They like a work in progress. And, despite only being four, that description already suits Isaac rather well.

In truth, I’m a little jealous of him already, because I have never known – nor will I ever know – what it is like to have women fighting over me (unless it’s the elderly variety, who want something reaching from a high shelf in the supermarket), but I have no doubt Isaac will be breaking hearts all over the place when he’s older.

Thanks, as ever, for reading x

45294663_10156785524216350_6344711219353485312_n

Standard

Bloggy Kids

‘THE SCHOOL RUN’

A Short Play

40660307_10155805051478366_7042114101773860864_n

 

Dramatis Personae:

‘Daddy’ 

47494229_10156869451206350_8249457828478058496_n

A tall, good-looking man, who is struggling with the pressures of early middle-age, and who regularly overuses the word ‘fuck’.

‘Ollie’

40451958_10155795532208366_7464389767283605504_n

An eight-year-old boy, wiry, over-emotional at best.

‘Isaac’

38744576_10156579938726350_326974275401547776_n

Ollie’s younger brother, four. A feral wolf child, with the face and hair of a pretty little girl, but the empty black soul of a malevolent demon.

***

Narrator:  The following play is based on real-life events, which occurred in a small town called Sandbach, in January 2019.

 

ACT I

[The lights come up on a Living Room. Daddy enters stage right, wearing nothing but an ill-fitting towel. He is wet, and the impression is that he has just exited the shower. He looks harassed and hurried]

Daddy:  Why are neither of you ready yet?!

Ollie:     I’m ready!

Daddy:  You’re not wearing socks.

Ollie:     Oh, yeah.

Daddy:  And you’re still watching that idiot play FIFA on YouTube. For the final time, turn it off. I said I wanted you both dressed and ready by the time I got out of the shower. Don’t do this to me again!

Isaac:     Do what?

Daddy:   Get me stressed and make us late.

Isaac:     Can I have more cereal?

Daddy:  No. You’ve already had two massive bowls and we don’t have enough time or milk. We’re leaving the house in less than ten minutes and I have no clothes on yet. Do you want me to do the school run in just this towel?

Isaac:      YES!

Daddy:   Shut up. I’m going for a shave, and I want you both ready to walk out of the door by the time I come back downstairs.

Ollie:       Ok.

[Daddy quickly exits stage left, clutching the small towel at his waist to save exposing himself as he takes the stairs three at a time. Both boys remain motionless, with Ollie staring at a laptop screen, and Isaac watching Scooby Doo on the television]

***

 

ACT II

[The lights come back up on the Living Room. Both boys are in exactly the same position as they were at the end of Act I. Daddy rushes in stage left, now wearing a suit, and hurriedly straightening his tie]

 

Daddy:  What the HELL?! Ollie, turn that laptop off NOW. Isaac, turn the television off and find your hairbrush. Ollie, put some fu… put some socks on NOW.

Isaac:      I can’t find my hairbrush.

Daddy:   Get Mummy’s instead then.

Isaac:      Ok, Geoff.

Daddy:   Stop calling me Geoff. Ollie, why are you crying?

Ollie:      You shouted at me.

Daddy:   Do you know why?

Ollie:      No. I’ve not done anything wrong!

Daddy:  Really? How about ignoring me and making us late for school yet again? How about not getting dressed before watching those stupid videos on YouTube? How about leaving your cereal bowl there for Isaac to trip over? We have the same conversation every fu…. We have the same conversation every morning, and, for once, I would like to arrive in the school playground without worrying that I might collapse at any given second. Go and get your bags, brush your teeth, get your shoes and coat on, and wait by the front door. We’re leaving in two minutes.

[Ollie runs off stage left, sniffling loudly. Daddy quickly brushes Isaac’s hair, then struggles with an orange ‘bobble’ as he tries to put it into a ponytail. At one point, when Isaac isn’t looking, he silently screams ‘FUCK!’, then punches the sofa next to him. He rubs his knuckles, evidently in some pain]

Daddy:   Right, that’ll have to do.

Isaac:     Does it look ok?

Daddy:  Sure. Now, go downstairs, put your shoes and coat on, brush your teeth, and wait by the front door.

Isaac:     Ok, Geoff.

[Isaac leaves stage left, followed shortly after by Daddy, who is still rubbing his knuckles]

***

 

ACT III

[The lights come up on an entrance hall and front door. Both boys are now wearing coats. Daddy is putting his shoes on]

 

Daddy:   Right, have you both brushed your teeth?

Boys:      Yes

Daddy:   Both of you?

Boys:      Yes!

Isaac:    Actually, I haven’t.

Daddy:  Do them. Now.

[Isaac dashes to the side of the stage]

Daddy:   Ollie, have you got your swimming kit?

Ollie:      Yes.

Daddy:   And your £1 for swimming?

Ollie:     Yes.

Daddy:  Guitar?

Ollie:      Yes.

Daddy:   Drinks bottle?

Ollie:      Here.

Daddy:    What about the permission slip for your school trip?

Ollie:      Hey, that rhymes!

Daddy:   Shut up. Do you have your permission slip?

Ollie:       It’s in my pocket.

Daddy:    Is there anything else you need?

Ollie:       My Match Attax.

Daddy:  Balls to your Match Attax. Is there anything else you actually need for school?

Ollie:       No. I have my Match Attax anyway, I was just saying.

[Isaac returns from the side of the stage]

Daddy:   Isaac, have you got your school bag?

Isaac:     Yes, Geoff.

Daddy:   I asked you to stop calling me that. Do you have your drinks bottle?

Isaac:     Yes.

Daddy:   Have you both got your snacks for breaktime?

Boys:      Yes!

Daddy:   And do you remember what you’re having for lunch?

Ollie:      Roast chicken dinner!

Daddy:   Correct.

Isaac:     I’m having a packed lunch.

Daddy:   No, you’re not.

Isaac:     I AM!

Daddy:  No, you’re fuc… you’re having chicken dinner, remember? I asked you half an hour ago and you agreed. You said you love chicken dinner.

Isaac:     I hate chicken dinner! I want a packed lunch!

Daddy:   Tough. We’re late, and I haven’t got time. You’re having chicken dinner.

[Isaac now starts to cry]

Daddy:    Please, Isaac, we discussed this. I don’t have time to make a packed lunch. You told me you love chicken dinner. It’s just chicken, potatoes and veg.

[Isaac suddenly stops crying]

Isaac:     Yay! I love chicken dinner!

Daddy:   You little f-

Ollie:      Can we play a game?

Daddy:   What?! No! We need to leave, NOW.

Ollie:      Can we play a game on the way?

Daddy:   No. Look, I have a splitting headache, I’m stressed, and you two have again been no help whatsoever. He’s been up since 5.45am, you’ve both spent the past hour fighting –

Both:      He started it!

Daddy:   – I don’t care. You’ve both spent the past hour fighting, and I’m sick of it. We’re leaving the house and you’re going to have to run because we’re VERY late.

[Ollie opens the front door]

Ollie:      Erm, Daddy….?

Daddy:   What now?

Ollie:       It’s raining.

Daddy:   Oh, for fu….. right, put your hoods up. I’m just going to swap my coat for the waterproof one.

[Daddy quickly changes coats]

Daddy:    Ok, now can we leave?

Ollie:        Hang on. I can’t find my pound.

Isaac:       I don’t have any shoes on. And I need a wee.

[Daddy starts to turn purple, and the stage lights fade to the sound of a scream]

Daddy:     FUUUUU-

THE END

Standard

Nobody Puts Bloggy In A Corner

You may be aware that last week was national ‘anti-bullying week’ (frankly, every week should be anti-bullying week, but I do understand the rationale behind selecting one particular seven-day period to focus everyone’s attention on the issue).

Naturally, head teachers up and down the country dealt with this in different ways; but our boys’ primary school participated in ‘odd socks day’, inviting all the pupils to wear mismatched (and brightly-coloured) socks, as a symbol of unity against bullying, and to celebrate everyone’s individuality.

If you don’t follow my Facebook page (although I suspect the vast majority of those reading this do), you may not be aware that, on ‘odd socks day’, I posted a photograph of my two boys from the knees down, displaying their chosen footwear for the day. Here’s the photo:

46060558_2265223447044831_4592106185942892544_n

Yes, in true Isaac fashion, he refused to take part; and whilst my wife and I obviously accepted his choice, we were still concerned that he might change his mind once he arrived at school to be greeted by all the other pupils in colourful socks – or, worse (and rather ironically), that he might be teased for being the odd-one-out – so we shoved a spare (mismatched) pair in his bag just in case.

Bullying is an important issue, and whilst the focus tends to be on children during anti-bullying week, this is usually because:

  1. It is best raised early, before any adverse behavioural patterns are formed which might be harder to change in later life;
  2. Children are often less aware of the devastating effects that bullying can have (whether they happen to be the ‘bully’ or the ‘victim’);
  3. Children may be unaware of the various forms bullying can take, and that it needn’t be physical – or even in person – to still have terrible consequences;
  4. If adults think bullying is acceptable, then they are most likely beyond help, and should be sent away to live in a far-off land.

So, in a rare turn of events, the remainder of this week’s entry is aimed towards children, and whilst you adults are naturally invited to read on, I would appreciate it if you could share what follows with your own kids, or any that you happen to know.

Thanks.

***

Hi.

You probably don’t know me, or ever get to read what I write about, but that’s because I tend to be a bit rude and swear a lot. Hopefully, your Mum or Dad (or whichever grown-up has asked you to read this) likes my blog, and finds it funny.

I wanted to talk to you about bullying because, statistically, you will experience bullying at some point in your life (whether directly or indirectly), and it’s an issue which needs addressing. I am by no means an expert, but I have amassed a few readers over the years, and if the message gets through to just a few people, it was worth it. Besides, I was bullied at school, so I know what it’s like, and that’s a pretty good starting point.

Firstly, let’s get one common error out of the way. Bullying is not always physical, and can just as easily (perhaps even more easily) take the form of words rather than punches. You may even have bullied someone yourself in the past – even if you don’t want to admit it – because if you have ever teased someone, and taken the joke too far, that’s bullying.

Look, I like to make people laugh, and sometimes I do that at the expense of others, but I would like to think I know when to stop, and if the person who is the subject of the joke doesn’t find it funny, then that’s not right. I’ve made this mistake myself over the years, and hate to think I might have upset people, but I now try to find humour in other situations – preferably at my own expense, to be on the safe side. Fortunately, I embarrass myself quite a lot, so I’ve usually got plenty of material.

Bullying doesn’t even need to be in person, and that’s the really scary thing, because the internet (which, believe it or not, didn’t exist when I was your age), now makes it so much easier for bullies and – even worse – makes it much harder to detect and stop.

If a child comes home from school with a black eye, or a bloody nose, or a bruised arm, this is a visible sign that hopefully their parent(s) or teacher(s) will ask them about. Ok, it might be down to a simple accident (and my kids are always having accidents), but it could equally be the result of bullying. However, if that same person is being bullied online, or via their phone, it’s not as easy to spot, and that child’s misery may go undetected – or could be mistaken for something else.

I want you to take a second and think about your friends, classmates, siblings, and anyone else you are in contact with each day, and really think if you might have crossed that line at some point. If, like me, you have ever taken a joke too far at someone else’s expense, ridiculed them, or even physically hurt them, there’s still time to apologise and change.

Alternatively, maybe you are the one who has been bullied in the past, or you might even be the victim of bullying right now, and it’s you that I really want to talk to, because you can – and must – do something about it.

I am pleased to say I have never physically bullied anyone, but that is for one very simple reason, and it’s this:

38701208_10155742022128366_8510702487022338048_n

Just look at me. I’m not exactly physically threatening, am I? And that’s me now. Believe or not, I’m a lot more appealing as an adult than I was as a child/teenager. When I was at primary school, I had over-sized glasses and the hair of a fifty-year-old woman. Don’t believe me? Take a look at this:

46514200_10156829093686350_7899438850215247872_n

Then, when puberty hit, I developed even worse hair and terrible skin. Being skinny, wearing glasses, having acne, or being socially-awkward, is usually enough for any bully to work with, and I had all four going on at once.

I was an easy target, for most of my teenage years, and I’m just glad I was mentally strong enough to cope, because some days I was utterly miserable at school. It frightens me that not everyone has that inner-strength, and some victims of bullying fail to see a way out. Believe me, there is always a way out, because there is always someone out there willing to listen and help.

My escape was being funny (or, at least, trying to be).

I realised, when I was growing up, that I had a knack for making people laugh, and it gave me a buzz when others found me amusing. I slowly managed to alter people’s perception, so that rather than laughing at me, they laughed with me. Not everyone, obviously, and there were still some of the bigger kids who picked on me, but it only ever resulted in physical violence on a few occasions, so I suppose some people might see that as fortunate, even though psychological bullying can have longer-lasting effects.

Because I wasn’t ever blessed with good looks – some would say I’m still not – not to mention the fact I needed glasses from a young age (and, back then, wearing specs wasn’t as cool as it is today), I never had the distractions of going out lots, or girls, and so I worked hard at school instead.

I didn’t know it at the time, and if you’re in the same situation you may not appreciate it either, but being ‘geeky’ was one of the best things to happen to me. I got really good grades in my GCSEs, and even though I didn’t do as well in my A-levels (thanks, in no small part, to the fact I had been rejected by several girls in my year, and it started to get me down), I still went to a good university, then law school, and now I have a decent job.

Better still, when I was at university, I met a girl who was able to look past the crap hair and glasses (even though she later persuaded me to change both), and she fell in love with me for who I am. We got married in 2004, had our first son in 2010, and our second son in 2014. I still wish my school life had been happier, and perhaps filled with more female attention in the later years (ok, any female attention), but my point is this: everything worked out.

Popularity, sporting achievements, and having a boyfriend or girlfriend isn’t everything, I promise you. If you try to be a good, kind person, things will work out. You will be popular. You will find love. If I can get married, have kids, and enjoy a relatively successful career (I added the word ‘relatively’, because I’m typing this on my lunch break, and it ended about twenty minutes ago), then there is hope for us all.

Each and every one of us is amazing in our own way, and that includes you. Don’t ever let anyone make you feel worthless, or inferior, because it usually only means they are compensating for something missing from their own life.

And, if anyone does make you feel that way, whether their actions take a physical or psychological form, it is absolutely ok to tell someone, and get help. You never need to suffer on your own, and even if you don’t think you can speak to your parents, or teachers, or friends, there are charities like Childline. Their number, if you or anyone you know needs it, is 0800 1111.

Basically, just be you, because you are bloody brilliant.

Thanks for reading x

Standard